Page:Court Royal.djvu/220

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Cheek, and said somewhat roughly, ‘Excuse me, I want the front chair.’ The young man started, looked surprised, and at once surrendered the seat. ‘I am short-sighted,’ explained the Jew. Mr. Cheek bowed, and withdrew to his place in the stalls.

Joanna was annoyed, not so much at losing her companion as at the disturbance, distracting her attention from the play. She frowned, and tapped her fan impatiently on the cushion.

Lazarus sat beside her, his face turned towards the stage; she saw that it was cadaverous, and that his muscles twitched with nervousness.

Next moment she had forgotten him to observe Juliet. At the appearance of Mlle. Palma Kaminski, the famous Polish actress from the Imperial Theatre, Warsaw, the gallery burst into applause. The pit took up the applause; the clapping of hands, thumping of heels and umbrella ferrules on the floor for a minute brought the play to a standstill. The dress circle languidly patted its hands, the stalls remained unmoved.

In recognition of this reception, Mlle. Palma stepped forward to the footlights and curtseyed; as she did so, she raised her eyes and looked at the boxes for a moment; her eyes remained fixed on the stage box on her right only for a moment, and then she turned her head away without a token of emotion. Lazarus leaned back, his face quivering, his hands clenched. Their eyes had met.

Joanna observed the famous actress with the closest attention. This was Rachel—the beautiful Rachel whom Lazarus had loved, and who had wrecked his life. This was she who had so bewitched the Marquess that he had forgotten honour and right, and had run away with her to Sicily. Joanna was sufficiently near to see the make-up in her face, the paint, the powder, the antimony about the eyes, the rouge on the cheeks. She saw that Rachel was lovely, had been very lovely, but—fatal but—she was becoming stout.

Joanna laughed. The consciousness was borne in on her that she was herself more beautiful than this woman who had made two men miserable—who had broken two lives. The applause had just ceased, and a short silence succeeded before the performers resumed their dialogue. On that short interval of silence Joanna’s laugh broke, and instantly the beautiful actress looked at her. She looked intently, questioningly; then turned her eyes for a moment, only for a moment, on Lazarus.